Team: Class 4A Navasota Rattlers
Gunslinger: Shelton Eppler
2014 season stats and end result: 286-427, 67 percent completion rate, 5,444 passing yards and 71 touchdowns. 16-0 and the Class 4A Division I state champions.
Take another look at the last two stats in Shelton Eppler’s stat line. His single-season passing yards rank second all-time in the history of Texas high school football — 113 yards behind the No. 1 passer, Refugio’s Travis Quintanilla (Class of 2013). However, he did break Quintanilla’s single-season touchdown record by three scores.
The Navasota ISD Twitter account was proud of their young signal-caller, producing this iconic image commemorating his record-setting performance.
Congratulations to Navasota QB Shelton Eppler, now the single-season touchdown passing leader in Texas state history. pic.twitter.com/IA5zWj7M9g
— Navasota ISD (@NavasotaISD) December 20, 2014
To go along with his impressive stats, the then junior signal-caller and the rest of his Rattler teammates stunned the previously unbeaten Argyle Eagles 42-35 in double overtime to take the state title in front of 20,853 fans at AT&T Stadium. The close victory was the Rattlers’ second state championship in three years.
I had the privilege of covering that game last year, and Eppler didn’t disappoint. His 493 yards through the air and four touchdown passes during the state championship game was the icing on the cake to earn a spot in TexasHSFootball.com’s Top 10 Quarterbacks heading into the preseason.
Besides his spectacular stats last season, he passed the eyeball test for how well he plays the quarterback position. He made a lot of difficult throws during the season, and it was obvious the underclassmen gunslinger took the leadership trait of being the Rattlers’ quarterback to heart.
“I like the leadership role, knowing that my teammates expect me to do great things, knowing that they will feed off my energy,” Eppler told Larry Bowen of The Eagle. “They know that I will always be there for them, that I have their back 100 percent just like they have mine. It’s huge knowing that your teammates are like brothers, that they’re family.”
The 6-foot-1, 195 pound Eppler doesn’t just have the sheer mechanics, which makes him the gunslinger he his, a drive and ability to study and analyze the game that separates him from other QBs around the state. He studied the previous Rattler quarterback, Kadarious Baker (who led the Rattlers in their 2012 state final) taking some things from his playing style.
Eppler’s supporting cast helped him last season, but a good wide receiver has to have an even better quarterback, right? His receiver corps was led by a former Baylor commit Tren’Davian Dickson, who was on the receiving end of 39 of Eppler’s record-setting 71 touchdown passes. Dickson broke the national record for receiving touchdowns in their 49-26 semifinal win over Liberty Hill at Baylor’s McLane Stadium. He finished the season with 39 total, breaking the previous record set in 2008 by Kirby Moore of Prosser (Wash.).
Guess what? The duo will be garbed in a Rattlers uniform their senior season vying a repeat of their 2014 campaign.
Surprisingly, Eppler has only one college offer on his plate from the University of South Dakota. He was ranked as a three-star recruit on 247Sports.com and recently visited the Texas Longhorns camp last month.
Blessed to receive my first offer from the University of South Dakota! 🐾 pic.twitter.com/PZcauDvWqs
— Shelton Eppler ⚡️ (@Pelta25) May 7, 2015
It’ll be more than difficult for Eppler to repeat or play better than last season, but if having one offer after breaking the single-season record for most touchdown passes and a state title isn’t enough for college recruiters to look his way, he’ll be sure to light up the scoreboard and play to his own standard of excellence.